I thought I’d give a little initial breakdown of how I will be scoring the zoos. Like any critic (or visitor), I realize that scoring something is much more than just your overall impression when you’re there. To properly judge something you must break it down into categories and rate each one of those individually. I also realize that many people visit zoos for different reasons. Young families visit zoos for different reasons than say a photographer or an elderly couple. Keeping that in mind I came up with a number of categories that will show scores that will hopefully help visitors choose the best zoo for their needs.
Children Friendly: One would assume that all zoos have this in mind, however the size of the zoo and how they incorporate activities greatly changes this score.
Diversity of Animals: Seeing any exotic animal is exciting, but the more new and interesting animals there are means more value for your money.
Animal Viewing: The ease of being able to see the animals in their exhibit, also the tendency of animals being off exhibit.
Perceived Animal Happiness: This is a tough one to judge. I will be basing this off the suitability of the enclosures to the animals as well as the level of enrichment provided. The level of perceived distress (such as pacing, rocking, and other stress related cues) will also factor in.
Photography: Not unlike animal viewing, many visitors main goals is to capture their moments at the zoo. This will take into account the type of structures they use such as fencing, glass, open areas, etc.
Layout and Map: This is one of my pet peeves of zoos, a not well thought out layout or map leaves visitors confused and missing exhibits.
Hours: Many zoos are understandably seasonal, but many are also open year round which visitors do not realize. That combined with their daily operating hours will factor in to this category.
Price: A big factor for visitors, this will focus on not only their admission and parking, but also the value of a membership and food.
Food: The variety and quality of food prepared at the zoo.
Website: The quality of the website and content.
Gift Shop: Not necessarily the most determining factor in the quality of a zoo, but many visitors are looking for souvenirs from their trip, especially if visiting from out of the country.
Quiet Areas: Places to rest, regroup, and/or spend some down time throughout the day are important to many visitors.
Safety and Cleanliness: A general score on the upkeep of the zoo, this includes both safety for the visitors as well as the animals.
Extras: This includes all those extra things that a zoo can provide outside of the regular viewing experience, such as keeper talks, behind the scenes, feedings, activities, events, and more.
By taking into account the categories that are important to you, finding your perfect zoo through ZooCritic will be a breeze!